Monday, July 25, 2016 | Subscribe

Q and A: Brenna Findley

Raised and home­schooled on a farm near Dexter, Iowa, Brenna Findley, 37, attended Drake Uni­versity and the Uni­versity of Chicago Law School. Upon grad­uation, Findley worked as an attorney in private practice at a national law firm in its Silicon Valley and Wash­ington, D.C. offices. She later served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to Con­gressman Steve King, R-Kiron. Returning to private practice with Whitaker Hagenow GBMG in Des Moines, she was her party’s nominee for attorney general in 2010. She is cur­rently serving as Counsel to Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa.

How did you first become involved in law and politics? Did you always want to be a lawyer?

I was always interested in being involved in my com­munity and trying to make a dif­ference. So I started vol­un­teering with cam­paigns when I was 13. My dad is a farmer. There are no lawyers in my family. Some people said I should be a lawyer, but I didn’t decide until I was a senior in college for sure.

What best prepared you to be a lawyer?

I think to work in law and politics, it’s important to have prepa­ration so that you can think crit­ically and analyze. Com­mu­ni­cation skills are very important. Being able to work hard, which I learned on the farm, is essential. Along the way outside of aca­demics, you acquire the people skills that are needed in order to serve and com­mu­nicate with people, to listen and understand their concerns.

Who in the political sphere has influenced you the most and how?

There are dif­ferent people for dif­ferent reasons. When I was 16, I was a page in the leg­is­lature, and so I watched House members and how they interacted. So I learned a lot from just watching how that worked. I learned what was good and what was bad, what was effective and what was inef­fective. So that was very valuable. When I was running for [Iowa] attorney general, one of the things I did to prepare for debates was to watch some Margaret Thatcher videos. I think she is someone who’s articulate and firm, but she explained ideas in ways that were com­pelling. And so obviously I admire her. I read doc­uments that were related to the founding of our country, and that was inspiring. Espe­cially by the examples of many of the founding fathers and everything they gave up in order to serve and to help get our gov­ernment on a good path right off the bat. And there are other political leaders that I worked with that I admired. Sometimes I learn as much from the people I don’t admire, as the ones that I do. I try to learn from everything.

You ran for attorney general in 2010, will you run again in the future?

I might. It’s too early to make that sort of decision. I really enjoyed running for office. I enjoyed meeting all the people and cam­paigning in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. And com­mu­ni­cating a message to all of Iowans how to solve problems and how things could be better. Not just proposing things, but proposing some concrete solutions to some dif­ficult problems. I enjoy that challenge.

What was the best part of campaigning?

Meeting all the people.

What do you like most about your current position?

It’s a won­derful oppor­tunity to serve and make a dif­ference. [Serving was] one of the things that I hoped for after losing the race for attorney general. There were so many things that I cared about – that I wanted to impact as attorney general – but I lost the election and wasn’t able to do that. The governor hired me as his legal counsel, and I’ve been able to work on a number of issues I care about. I get to work with a very expe­rienced governor, and I’ve learned a lot from him. He is a great executive.

What is the best advice you could give college students trying to get into public policy?

To get into public policy, it’s important not only to have aca­demics, but to have practical expe­rience as well. So vol­unteer in whatever capacity the orga­ni­zation is willing to utilize you within. For cam­paigns, that would be door-knocking, passing out lit­erature, answering phones, or helping get ready for events. I learned a lot by doing those sorts of things and made a dif­ference as well. Get involved early on and try dif­ferent things. I quickly found the areas that interested me and those that didn’t. Directly vol­un­teering, being involved, and being engaged were very important.